Knowledge for Development


Chocolate farmers could benefit from newly sequenced cacao genome

KA2-101, a specially bred cacao cultivar developed by the Cacao and Coconut Research Institute in Papua New Guinea is one of the parents breed used to map the cacao genome. On 15 September 2010, a first draft of the cacao genome has been completed by a consortium of academic, governmental, and industry scientists. Indiana University Bloomington scientists performed much of the sequencing work, which is described and detailed at the official website of the Cacao Genome Database project. (Source: Physorg, 15 September 2010)


Nestle gives Ivorian farmers disease-resistant cocoa trees

Nestlé ramped up its distribution of disease-resistant cocoa trees to farmers in Ivory Coast, part of a plan to boost productivity per hectare and improve the notoriously poor quality of the top grower's cocoa beans. The world's biggest food maker, which has distributed some 140,000 saplings since 2009, said it will hand out 600,000 saplings by the end of the month and a further one million next year in a bid to raise productivity on farms. Diseases and aging trees mean Ivorian cocoa yields are amongst the lowest in the world at less than 500 kg per hectare compared to 2 tonnes in Indonesia and 1.5 tonnes in Ghana. Pests such as black pod and swollen shoot disease have damaged cocoa crops and remain a threat to what is otherwise expected to be a bumper 2010/11 season that has already overshot a 1.3 million tonne target more than two months before the end of the season.(Reuters, 13/7/2011)


Overview of Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa germplasm projects

Trinidad and Tobago is one of ten cocoa producing countries participating in an international cocoa germplasm project which is organised, supervised and financed by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) and Bioversity International. The major objective is to provide new cocoa varieties with improved yielding capacity, disease resistance and quality traits for increasing cocoa outputs. Specifically, the project utilizes participatory approaches for the development of more efficient and sustainable cocoa cropping systems through distribution, validation and use of new cocoa varieties. This page overview offers an overview of what has been achieved to date by T&T’s Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs (MFPLMA). (MFPLMA, 20/10/2011)


Evaluating cocoa agroforests to develop sustainable farming systems

In central Cameroon, cocoa farmers have developed a complex agroforestry system, which allows them to maintain a stable production on a much longer timescale and without the use of fertilizers. CIRAD researchers have analyzed the dynamics of this system of cocoa, to understand its operation, its changes and their determinants, and developed a new model of cocoa farming, sustainable and environmentally friendly. (CIRAD, 05/2012)


Re-conceiving agriculture in the Caribbean

At a Caribbean Fine Flavour Cocoa Industry Commercialisation workshop held in February 2011 at the University of West Indies (St. Augustine campus in Trinidad & Tobago), the University’s Principal, Professor Clement Sankat, called for a re-conception of research priorities and practices in the Caribbean agricultural sector. Adopting a new approach in the sector would involve having a better understanding of the crop branching architecture, delivering the highest levels of productivity, and newer designs of growing systems, like the Tatura Trellis growing system adapted to cocoa trees that boost crop production per tree and lessens negative environmental effects. Revised agricultural practices should facilitate mechanisation, push for higher levels of labour productivity and help develop opportunities for higher quality employment. (Source: RIE Network, February 2011)


Vanuatu gives market power to small cocoa farmers

Vanuatu is set to become a world leader in involving small scale cocoa growers in taking their product to the world. A new database system developed by African Pacific Vanuatu Ltd, a private sector organisation, will allow growers to take charge of their organic or fair trade certification for the first time and directly link them with customers. The enterprise calls itself a transparent service provider – a match-maker dedicated to getting a better deal for growers. Certification costs are high for small growers but in Vanuatu, the high cost is overcome by using mobile communications to create and update an accurate computer-based database that can be controlled by growers.(Pacific Growers, 23/7/2012)


Cocoa: Certified cocoa: scaling up farmer participation in West Africa

This case study, published by IIED in November 2012, describes efforts by Rainforest Alliance to meet growing industry demand for certified cocoa by rapidly scaling up its network of certified farmers in the cocoa-producing countries of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. A key focus of the paper is on reaching unorganised farmers, as the vast majority of West African cocoa farmers do not belong to co-operatives. By working through supply chain companies and trader networks, Rainforest Alliance was able to certify over 15000 farmers in just three years. At the same time, the team explored new ways to reduce costs to farmers and to increase farmer benefits., 2012)


The Ghana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS)

The Ghana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS) was established as a component of the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP) supported by the Government of Ghana and the World Bank. GAINS was set up to strengthen library and information system to be able to make agricultural information accessible to researchers, scientists, policy makers and extension workers to support sustainable agricultural development. GAINS sought to achieve its mandate through capacity building, creating and maintaining databases of local agricultural output, and establishing mechanism and infrastructure for collecting, storing and disseminating widely these agricultural research outputs. Other similar networks in the agricultural domain are available and


Improved varieties of cocoa seedlings released in Nigeria

The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) released eight improved varieties of cocoa seedlings in an effort to increase the productivity of this export crop.  The new varieties can mature in 18 months and improve farmers’ yield. The farmers had been coming to the institute to collect the seedlings. The institute has dispatched extension workers to farmers to monitor the growth of the seedlings on their farms. CRIN has undertaken research on the latest technique of ‘top crafting’ that would produce a variety of cocoa seedlings that could mature in nine months. Nigeria, 21/3/2013)


Aligning cocoa farmers and markets for a sustainable landscape

The Rainforest Alliance has developed a new set of diagnostic and evaluation tools that help identify the regions, communities and farmers best suited for sustainable cocoa initiatives, as well as the most effective training and technical assistance investments for each setting. With new cocoa varieties, optimal pruning and grafting, and organic fertilisers, farmers can significantly increase yields while maintaining soil health, curbing disease, and reducing pressure to expand production into existing forests. Partial shade cover – studies suggest about 40% may represent a ‘sweet spot’ – helps create an ideal microclimate for cocoa while providing wildlife habitat.  (adapted from EcoAgriculture Blog, 05/06/2013)


A global strategy for the conservation and use of cacao genetic resources

Developed by the Global Network for Cacao Genetic Resources (CacaoNet), the strategy is the result of a consultation process that drew upon the global cocoa community’s expertise in all aspects of cacao genetic resources.  The specific goal of the Global Strategy is to optimise the conservation and maximise the use of cacao genetic resources for cocoa farmers to have access to a diversity of improved planting materials, the genetic diversity needs to be available to researchers engaged in breeding programmes to produce trees that can resist new pests and diseases, tolerate droughts and other environmental stresses and produce higher yields of good quality cocoa.    (Thomson Reuters, 11/09/2013 and Bioversity International, 2012) 


Ants can positively influence cocoa yields

Scientists from the universities of Göttingen (Germany) and Lund (Sweden) together with Indonesian partners, carried out laboratory experiments and field trials on cocoa plantations in Indonesia. They found that a species-rich ant community could ensure from 27 to 34 % of the cacao yield. The scientists point out that individual ant species have both positive and negative influences on the cocoa yield, but the positive effects dominate. When cocoa trees are populated by undisturbed, species-rich ant communities, however, the cacao yield is up to 27% higher than when they are barred from the cocoa trees. The findings differ when an ant community is dominated numerically by one single species. For instance, the black cocoa ant native to Indonesia brings similar benefits to those of species-rich ant fauna, nevertheless the invasion of an exotic ant can reduce the harvest by up to 34%.    (Rural 21, 08/01/2014)


Australian chocolate makers link with Vanuatu farmers

Adelaide University Professor Randy Stringer, who has been working with Vanuatu cocoa bean producers under the Pacific Agribusiness Research & Development Initiative (PARDI), sent samples of beans from many communities to Australian chocolate makers. Feedback was received and in the case of Vanuatu, chocolate makers found that the drying and fermentation process after harvest needed to be improved in order to create better beans. Indeed, one of the major challenges faced by the farmers is the need for improved drying methods, to stop the beans being tainted by smoke. Moves are afoot to take on this challenge: drier trials are being set up across the different islands in different conditions, so that farmers can adapt these driers for the ecosystems they have.   (Radio Australia, 21/03/2014)


Determination of postharvest pod storage on viability and seedling growth performance of cocoa

Joseph Kofi Saajah of the Ghana Cocoa Board and Bonaventure Kissinger Maalekuu at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, have determined how storage of cocoa pods (from a hybrid cocoa variety) affects seed viability, when stored in containers for a specific period. Having analysedthe results, the researchers recommend: (i) that farmers continue carting and/or storing cocoa pods in their traditional storage containers; (ii) the hybrid pods meant for propagation ideally should be planted within 0-15 days after harvest (DAH) for maximum viability; (iii) management of cocoa industry should ensure adequate and even distribution of 'gardens' (cocoa stations) to prevent farmers holding harvested pods beyond 15 DAH.   (Journal of Agricultural Science, 03/2014)


Cocoa butter and synthetic biology

The synthetic biology company Solazyme could threaten the livelihoods of millions of farmers. This California-based company has engineered synthetically modified microbes that produce a cocoa butter substitute for use in food and personal care products. At present, cocoa butter, the main ingredient of chocolate, is produced in 30 tropical countries and provides livelihoods for an estimated 6 million smallholder farmers. The world’s top three cocoa-producing countries are Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia, which together account for over two-thirds of all cocoa bean production.    (ETC Group, 3/07/2013)